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NY Poised to Ban Gay, Trans 'Panic' Murder Defenses

Associated Press

Thursday June 20, 2019

For decades, killers have used the idea that a gay person coming on to them — or even discovering that the person they are coming on to is trans — could trigger such intense rage or terror that the emotional response to the situation could constitute a kind of momentary insanity. In other words, if the gay or trans person in question ended up dead, well, it wasn't really the fault of the killer, was it?

That strategy became known as the "gay panic defense," and state lawmakers in New York have moved to ban that line of defense in murder cases, reported the New York Times. The move comes during Pride month, and just before the half-century anniversary of the Stonewall uprising that marked the start of the modern civil rights movement, the publication noted.

"I'm glad that New York is sending a message to prosecutors, to defense attorneys, juries and judges that a victim's L.G.B.T.Q. identity can't be weaponized," the Times quoted openly gay State Sen. Brad Holyman, who also introduced similar legislation in 2014.

The bill, which lawmakers approved, contains language the stipulates that "a non-violent sexual advance or the discovery of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity does not constitute a 'reasonable explanation or excuse," reported political news outlet The Hill.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reiterated he was on board with the legislation, tweeting, "With the enactment of this measure we are sending this noxious legal defense strategy to the dustbin of history where it belongs."

New York is now the seventh state to approve such a measure, the Times reported. Three other states also approved bans on "gay panic" defenses this year alone, the article said.

But not everyone applauded the news. Criminal defense groups have released an open letter decrying the move. Alice Fontier, the leader of one such group, Bronx defenders, told the Times, "We are absolutely opposed to the limitations of defenses."

For the LGBTQ community, however, the widespread push for states to ban such defensive strategies is a welcome change. Holyman told The Hill, "One of the most deplorable aspects of the gay-trans panic defense is that it treats LGBTQ people as less than other members of our society."

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